Now that I live in the south again, I’m learning to love the lowly collard. You absolutely can’t go wrong with the nutrition in this vegetable, and in the garden, they grow and grow and grow, sometimes even through the winter.

These leafy greens taste somewhat like a cross between cabbage and kale to which they are related. They are chock-full of vitamins A and C, and high in vitamin K, calcium, iron, fiber, lutein and zeaxanthin. How’s that for a mouthful?

Best of all they are versatile enough to be sauteed, steamed, boiled and even served fresh in a salad. I grew up with collards boiled for hours with a piece of ham hock. That taste certainly brings back my childhood, but I know that it’s not necessary to cook them into a gray-green mass or with meat to make them taste good.

When purchasing, choose leaves that aren’t huge and tough and use the inner, smaller leaves. One of my favorite ways to serve them is sauteed with coconut milk, tomatoes and sweet potatoes. Feel free to experiment and take advantage of the abundance of collards in the markets right now.

Here is an easy recipe adapted from The No Meat Athlete Cookbook.

Caribbean Coconut Collards and Sweet Potatoes

1 T. olive or coconut oil
1 yellow onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, chopped
½ t. crushed red pepper
1 t. sugar
2 bunches of collards, stemmed and chopped into 1-inch squares or rolled into a “cigar” and sliced into ribbons
1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
One 15-ounce can red kidney beans or chickpeas, drained and rinsed
One 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes with juice
1 ½ c. water
½ c. coconut milk
Salt and black pepper

Melt the oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and crushed red pepper. Cook over medium heat for 3 minutes and then stir in the collards and sweet potato. Add the beans, tomatoes with their juice, water, and coconut milk. Bring just to a boil, lower the heat to medium-low, and cook, covered, until the collards and sweet potato are tender, about 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

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